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These stories were published Thursday, Sept. 1, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 173
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Many options for people here to donate
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and wire services reports

Foreign residents of Costa Rica might feel frustrated because they are not able to  help the victims of Hurricane Katrina directly.

But word from the disaster agencies involved in the recover effort is that money is needed far more than random shipments of clothes or food.

One reader has suggested a Web site that gives viewers many options based on religious preference or a particular service agency. There even are sites to help animals who are victims of the storm. The donations can be made directly to the Stateside agency.

Americans Stateside have opened their hearts and pocketbooks for victims of Hurricane Katrina. Companies, charities, and individuals already have raised tens of millions of dollars for the relief effort.

An official of the American Red Cross says he has never seen anything like the outpouring of charity. Money is being collected at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, where people drove by with a donation.

"I've been watching it on the news all morning, so I thought I could come down and help before I came to work," he said.
The National Basketball Players Association is collecting food, clothing and supplies for areas hit by the storm. A team of the National Basketball Association, the Hornets, plays in stricken New Orleans.

Red Cross officials say contributions from around the United States totaled $20 million by early Wednesday.

Los Angeles Red Cross spokesman Nick Samaniego says others helped his city after a 1994 earthquake and a more recent series of wildfires. He says now the help is flowing in the other direction.

"Food, shelter, drinking water are the basic needs right now that we're providing for these people. These are our neighbors that came to our need during the Northridge quake and the wildfires, and if we can lend a hand to them, let's do it," he said.

The retailer Wal-Mart has pledged $1 million to another charity, the Salvation Army. Companies from the energy firm Exxon to drug-maker Eli Lilly have promised contributions to the relief effort.

Michigan's largest utility, DTE Energy Co., has sent 100 trucks to Mississippi and Louisiana to help restore electric power, and a 28-member search and rescue team from Tacoma, Wash., is also headed there with supplies.


Latest kidnapping may mean visit by crooks from elsewhere
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A week-long kidnapping that ended early Wednesday signals a change in that type of crime here.

Investigators say that the four men who kidnapped a Grecia trucking company owner and two others may have been Guatemalan. That could mean kidnappers in the other Central American states are looking toward Costa Rica for easy targets. Such crimes are epidemic elsewhere.

In the past, the bulk of the kidnappings here have been a form of Asian debt collecting, mainly from people who owed money to gamblers.

A few notable exceptions included the kidnapping Jan. 10, 2002, of  José Fabio Garnier, then 36, a young businessman, for extortion purposes when he was returning home from work on Paseo Colón. His body
was found more than two years later, and suspects face trial.

There also were a wave of so-called express kidnappings here in which crooks take someone and settle quickly for a relatively small amount of money.

In the most recent case, the kidnapping of the man identified by the last name of Bolaños, his wife and a driver took place Aug. 24. The crime was well planned. They were taken from their car south of San José while on a business trip. They live in Tacares de Grecia. The kidnappers held them more than seven days, extorting more and more money. The final total was around $135,000.

Jorge Rojas, director of the Judicial Investigating Organization, told newspeople Wednesday that the criminals would be  found. He said agents kept hands off as the kidnapped man or his wife were let free to round up payments of money.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 173





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Rodríguez warrant
valid, Sala IV rules


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Salas IV constitutional court has rejected a habeas corpus appeal by former president Miguel Ángel Rodríguez, who was arrested Oct. 15 at Juan Santamaría Airport.

The lawyers for Rodríguez argued that the arrest warrant issued Oct. 8 was invalid because at that time the former president was cloaked with immunity as a result of his new job as secretary general of the Organization of American States.

The bulk of the high court rejected this argument and said that the immunity was only for the work of Rodríguez in his capacity at the OAS and that the former president never had immunity against charges stemming from actions that took place before he got the OAS job.

Rodríguez returned voluntarily from the United States and was angry that police confronted him when his plane landed, handcuffed him and took him in a paddy wagon to the Tribunales de Justicia in San José, an event that was featured on local television for its duration.

Corporations will keep
on giving at 30 percent


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Lawmakers raised the corporate tax rate Wednesday even though the so-called fiscal plan is not yet law.

By a scant single vote, the Asamblea Legislative boosted income tax for large corporations (those
generating more than 30 million colons a year) from 25 percent to 30 percent. That's about $62,200 a year.

The original fiscal plan contained a 25 percent rate with the idea that such a figure would encourage investment and help companies be successful. The current rate is 30 percent, so the original plan would have cut the rate by 5 percent.

Luis Gerardo Villanueva Monge, the deputy who proposed the motion, said that after reflexion lawmakers did not think that a 30 percent rate would hurt investment and that he also proposed a motion that was approved to defer taxation of corporate profits generated outside the country.

The rate compares favorable with that of the United States and México where corporations pay from 15 to 35 percent.  Stockholders also pay taxes on dividends paid by such companies, a process that has been dubbed double taxation.
   
Our readers opinions

Not all Americans are
wealth driving SUVs


Dear A.M. Costa Rica

I tend to agree with writer Carl Lawrence about little help forthcoming for America in the wake of the hurricane. The U.S. has a negative image around the world that comes with being the most wealthy and powerful. Outsiders assume it has the capacity to take care of itself. On top of this perception, other people of the world seem to overwhelming dislike American's choice of governments, its foreign, economic and environmental policies, and now increasingly it seems, its culture.

They also forget that there are a lot of poor in the U.S. who are victims of U.S. policies, unfortunates who will include the hardest hit by this natural disaster, and who proportionally will not get a lot of help from their government. People forget that not all Americans are self-centred, SUV driving, right-wing religious and militaristic nut cases. Many are quite decent people with a social conscience.  I have personally met some of these fine Americans in Costa Rica, and I will be making my own donation to the U.S. Red Cross.

R. Martin
Quepos/Toronto
  
Accounting change urged
for corporate responsibility


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

A change in corporate accounting rules can make
damage and remediation visible.

There’s no accounting for waste! Where is that written?

It’s no secret. There are those who feel that our planet is being depleted of its resources, and that time is running out. There are those who place the blame on what they see as the unbridled greed of the corporate world, whose members will, for example, clear-cut a forest to create toilet paper and paper towels. Part of the problem, in my opinion, is the fear-based thought patterns from which this viewpoint springs. Another part of the problem is the ease with which destruction of resources can be swept under the carpet.

In my opinion, fixing the problem requires dealing with both aspects. The mind part can be dealt with at its source – using a “change your thinking, change your life” approach for corporations in addition to the more usual approach – working with the people who work in those corporations. As for making the destruction of resources visible, perhaps a more technical approach may be useful.

How about approaching the Federal Accounting Standards Board and proposing a change to corporate accounting rules? The basics of such a change could be these:

•    Whenever a resource is consumed or polluted, a debit is placed in the long-term liability section of the company’s balance sheet. The value of the liability would be equal to the expected cost of remediation, seen as “coming due” at the time remediation is expected to be complete. This debit would be applied whether or not the remediation actually occurs.

•    As remediation proceeds, the cost is placed on the asset side of the balance sheet. If the remediation process takes 5 years, for example, only 1/5 of the investment in remediation can be applied each year. In the case of reforestation, which may require 20 years, only 1/20 of the money invested in reforestation can be applied annually. Further, the “remediation credit” would have to be for the same kind of resource, without the possibility of trading credits with other companies.

There are some rather technical aspects to this from an accounting standpoint, and someone who knows more than I do about accounting will need to figure them out. There are some obvious social and political issues as well. From a high-level view, however, I believe it addresses the problem by making both the resources consumed or destroyed as well as the company’s work at remediation clearly visible.

Barry Stevens
Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica
Professional Directory
A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.

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NASA photos by Bill Ingalls
The NASA  ER-2 airplane has been flying over tropical storms and developing systems

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

NASA researchers are drying off after a 30-day hurricane-watching trip to Costa Rica.  During the trip, the team of researchers tracked two major Atlantic hurricanes, saw tropical storm births and deaths and documented new information about both types of storms, said the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

Researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Centro Nacional de Alta Tecnologia from here in Costa Rica worked with the team as well. 

“We were incredibly lucky and very surprised,” said Robbie Hood, an atmospheric scientist at the Marshall center.  “We were not expecting the tropical cyclones of the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico to be so numerous this early in the hurricane season."

The team spent July studying storms on both the Pacific and Atlantic Coasts, the Marshall center said.  Initially, the team intended to study the birth places of tropical cyclones in the eastern Pacific, but the early start to the Atlantic hurricane season prompted the team to study storms in that region as well. 

The team counts as one of its highlights, the observation of Hurricane Dennis.  Dennis was born quickly with a pressure drop of 12 millibars in two hours.  In comparison, normal low pressure systems generally take 24 hours to intensify that much, researchers said.  Then, Dennis smashed into Cuba as a Category 4 storm with winds from 131 to 155 mph.  The island's mountains poked the hurricane in the eye and disrupted it, weakening the storm to Category 2 – 96 to 100 mph.  But after it managed to clear the island, the storm regained its former strength over the Caribbean's warm waters.

Among other listed successes were the observation of

Pilot David Wright exits a support vehicle to prepare to board the ER-2 high-altitude weather research aircraft at Juan Santamaría Airport.
 
the birth of Tropical Storm Eugene and the use of the ER-2, NASA's super fancy high-altitude aircraft that allowed the team to guide the pilot using real time streaming data for the first time ever. 

David Wright, the pilot, was able to fly over Hurricane Emily which was a borderline Category 4-5.  The “eyewall” storms of the hurricane reached a height of 60,000 feet, researchers said.  

The project period expired before Hurricane Katrina moved through. Scientists estimate it will take a year to analyze all the data they gathered on the trip.


U.S. team hopes to qualify for World Cup Saturday
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

While Costa Ricans have their eye on Panamá and the contest between the national team and its counterpart there, another soccer showdown is brewing in Colombus, Ohio.

The U.S. Men's Soccer team takes on arch rival Mexico Saturday night with the winner of the match earning the first berth from the region to the 2006 World Cup in Germany.  The U.S. team is hoping a home crowd will help secure a spot in next year's tournament.

The last time these two teams met earlier in the final qualifying round, Mexico beat the United States, 2-1, in Azteca Stadium in Mexico City.  The U.S. men have never won a game at that storied venue, which featured tens of thousands of partisan Mexican fans, as well as the pollution and altitude of Mexico's capital.

But this time the two sides, both ranked in the top 10 in the world, meet at the home field of Major League Soccer's Columbus Crew.  Coach Bruce Arena's U.S. men have never lost in Columbus, with three wins and three draws.  But Coach Arena says his players have to take every opponent seriously.

"I think all of these World Cup qualifying games are equally important," he said.  "And this just happens to be Mexico this time around.  So I think, you know, you can never predict results, obviously, but I think they [the players] are going to step on the field with the proper confidence and they will be prepared accordingly and play a good game.  And if they can do that, they can put themselves in a position to win."
Saturday's match is a sell-out and a pro-U.S. crowd is expected to cram the nearly 23,000-seat soccer stadium.  But Bruce Arena says the players on the field still have to deliver, regardless of where they are playing.

"Uh, we have no excuses.  We are playing at home.  We are playing in a stadium we like and we need to step on the field and win the game," he added.

Mexico leads the final round of qualifying in the North, Central American and Caribbean region with 16 points.  But the Mexicans have not won a match and have not scored a goal in the United States since 1999.

The United States is one point behind Mexico with 15 going into Saturday's match.  The U.S. team has matches against Guatemala (Sept. 8) Costa Rica (Oct. 8) and Panama (Oct. 10) before the regional qualifying ends.

The tournament is run by the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football.

The top three teams in the six-team group advance to the World Cup and Saturday's winner is guaranteed a berth in the 2006 tournament.  The fourth-placed team in the region faces a playoff against the fifth-placed finisher from Asia for a spot in next year's tournament.

Costa Rica shares third place with Guatemala now. Both have 7 points. The Tico team hopes to pick up points Saturday because Panamá tails the league with just 2 points.


New strain of tolerant rice will debut today at a farm in Los Chiles
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A new variety of rice will be exhibited for the first time today at the Los Chiles farm of Lisandro Reyes, the grain's producer, said the Ministerio de Agricultora y Ganadería. 

The new grain, called INTA-Miravalles, is the result of three years of work by the Instituto Nacional de Investigación y Transferencia de Tecnología Agropecuaria, said the ministry.  The grain is distinguished because of its thrifty use of chemicals,
its adaptability to the small farmers in the region near Los Chiles and its tolerance of bacterial sicknesses, said Arnoldo Vargas León. He is the institute's coordinator in that region and has been following the development of the new strain.

“This variety has been evaluated for the last three groups organized of women in the north zone, who along with technicians from the INTA, selected it from among others in the region.  It is tolerant of soil acid, and it has a deep root structure which allows it to live through long dry periods,” added Vargas.






A report from CR-Home Realty
GRECIA:  The PERFECT PLACE to RETIRE??
If you are frustrated by literally thousands of so called "realtors," insane pricing and confusing Web sites as you endlessly search for the perfect property in Costa Rica . . . . STOP!!
 
We believe that the area of GRECIA offers far more than almost any other area of the country for retirees and those seeking a beautiful and peaceful home in which to enjoy life while enjoying the beauty and security which Costa Rica has to offer.
 
WHY?  ..... read on....

Grecia is Central . . . 50 minutes from San Jose, CIMA hospital, the Multiplaza, sports and cultural events. . . . one half hour from Juan Santamaría airport in Alajuela . . . and a little over an hour to the Central Pacific beaches!

Real estate properties in Grecia are still reasonably priced . . . prices here are about 10% of what they are in Escazú and about half of what they are in neighboring Atenas. Grecia is affordable.

The mountains of Grecia offer the perfect climate: 68-82 degrees all year round.

Grecia has its own hospital with excellent professional services and great shopping.  Every Saturday the town is host to one of the best open air markets in the country.  Fruits and vegetables galore.

Grecia is known as the "cleanest city in Latin America"

No howler monkeys or sloths here, but the area is home to countless flocks of parrots and literally thousands of species of birds and butterflies.


Coffee bushes

Fantastic views


 Bustling downtown Grecia

Because of its location and agricultural base (coffee and sugar cane) Grecia is green ALL YEAR ROUND.  

Crime is extremely low here.  No one worries about walking around town at night here.  There are still petty thefts, but neighbors here watch out for each other.

Everyone who visits Grecia and the area comments on the simplicity of life here.  Life here does proceed at a different pace and the lifestyle here takes us back to a simpler time that nearly all of us wish for but cannot have.  Family is still valued here, and Sunday is family day when extended families get together without fail. 

The builders, contractors and craftsmen here are old fashioned. They keep their word, they are excellent craftsmen who take pride in their work AND they honor their contracts. Most importantly, the properties we have available are drop dead gorgeous! Views, rivers, waterfalls, coffee, sugar cane, privacy.  We most likely have exactly what you thought you could never find. 

If this sounds like Paradise (or maybe that we are exaggerating . . .) come and see for yourselves before everyone discovers Grecia.

CR-HOME REALTY     www.cr-home.com     011-506-444-1695   randy@cr-home.com

 
Press organizations condemn new Cuban crackdown
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

International press advocacy groups are condemning a new crackdown on independent journalists in Cuba.

The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said Monday that several more journalists in Cuba have been arrested over the last several months.  The group said it had sent a letter to the European Union saying the release of imprisoned Cuban journalists should be a condition of any further relaxing of European sanctions against Cuba.

In June 2005, the EU extended its suspension of sanctions against Cuba for one year, while condemning "the measures taken by the Cuban authorities with the aim of limiting freedom of expression and assembly and press freedom."  The EU first imposed sanctions on Cuba in June 2003 after the Cuban regime began a crackdown on dissidents.  The EU suspended those sanctions in January.

Reporters Without Borders says Cuba currently has 24 journalists in jail, and "the press freedom situation there is getting worse and worse."  One of the jailed journalists is the editor of an independent press agency who was given what Reporters Without Borders called a "summary" trial and denied a lawyer.

The group said Cuba is currently the world's "second biggest prison for the press" after China. 

Reporters Without Borders said it has registered many cases of attempts by the Cuban government to intimidate independent journalists.  The two most recent cases cited by the group involved an Aug. 19 search "without any reason" of the home of Lázaro Raúl González by members of the Cuban National Revolutionary Police.  González was taken to the police station for refusing to surrender his identity document.

Another case involved Bernardo Arévalo Padrón, who has already spent six years in Cuban prisons. He was attacked by two members of the Cuban armed forces Aug. 22.
Reporters Without Borders also mentioned the July 22 arrest of Oscar Mario González, who is now awaiting trial and faces up to 20 years in prison.

The group said that when the EU next examines its position on Cuba, "the release of the imprisoned independent journalists" should be made "a basic condition for suspending sanctions."

Although the Cuban government has made a few symbolic gestures of democratic opening, said Reporters Without Borders, "the situation is far from improving for the independent press."

Another press advocacy group, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), also condemned the Cuban government's crackdown against independent reporters.  It cited the Aug. 6 arrest of Albert Santiago Du Bouchet Hernández, who was tried three days later and given a one-year jail term without the knowledge of his family, who found out about his detention only after he smuggled a note out of prison.

Du Bouchet Hernández is director of the independent news agency Havana Press, which sends reports to the Miami-based Web site Nueva Prensa Cubana.  He was charged with "disrespecting" the local chief of police and resisting arrest.

The CPJ said that "despite repeated international calls, the Cuban government continues its crackdown against independent journalists.  We condemn Du Bouchet Hernández's imprisonment on trumped-up charges and urge authorities to release him immediately and to stop intimidating the independent press."

The Miami-based Inter-American Press Association condemned in its own Aug. 29 statement the censure and incarceration of Cuban journalists. 

The group said the recent jailing of Du Bouchet Hernández was another example of intolerance by the Cuban government, and an increase in its repression against independent journalists.


Top pop singer Juanes will work on refugee campaign
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees is working with the Colombian singer-songwriter Juanes to highlight the plight of Colombians who have been uprooted from their homes because of the country's 40-year civil war.

Known simply as Juanes, a shortening of his first two names, the 33-year-old Colombian became a partner with the U.N. refugee agency in May because "people in my country have suffered and are still suffering a lot.  At the same time, it seems incredible that people (have the) capacity to keep moving forward, their desire to live.  I want to help them."

The agency said the award-winning singer, whom Time magazine named one of the world's 100 most influential people for 2005, hosted a sold-out concert
 in Spain Friday at which the agency began an awareness campaign on behalf of Colombia's refugees and displaced people.  Juanes is a nine-time Latin Grammy award winner, with a 2004 album, "Mi Sangre (My Blood)", which was a NO. 1-selling album in the Spanish-speaking world as well as in Germany.  "Mi Sangre" was nominated in 2005 for three Latin Grammy awards.

Born Juan Esteban Aristizabal in the Colombian city of Medellin, Juanes said in an article that "it was not easy to grow up in a country where bombs were exploding every day."  He added that "it is a question of conscience that we all should help."

Juanes, who now splits his time between Miami and Medellin, said that he is the father of two children and "I wish for the young Colombian generation a positive future."


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